It’s official: Google is ditching its homegrown Gears offline web app API in favor of backing HTML5 for the win.
Now that the Chrome browser is becoming available for Mac, and the Snow Leopard OS doesn’t play nicely with Gears, a Google rep confirmed the company has decided to trash the whole works and wait for HTML5, even though the spec isn’t yet ready and isn’t supported by commercially available browsers. Oh, the humanity… or rather, the machinery.
In the mists of time, back when Gears first launched, we wrote, “We’ve written many times before about the need for offline web app access… And guess who is most at risk with this announcement? Yes, Microsoft. Google after all has many of the top ‘best of breed’ web apps now.”
This was before Google’s Chrome browser had hit the scene, and the Gears project was a collaborative effort between Google, Opera, and Mozilla.
But in our coverage of last year’s Google I/O conference, we wrote of Gears, “We question whether offline access is even necessary. After all… in today’s world, you’re never too far from an internet connection. We concluded that offline access is important now, but less important with each passing day.”
Not only could Gears be used to take online data offline, Google had more in store for Gears users.
A few short months later, Google announced a geolocation API for mobile devices running Gears. We wrote, “We think that location-aware software is going to be one of the most interesting markets to watch in the near future and as location-aware devices become more ubiquitous, we will hopefully see a lot of new and innovative services make use of them.”
But the party ended with Snow Leopard’s release. Changes in the newest Mac OS and Safari 4 prevent Gears from running on some newer Mac computers. Whether or not the relationship is one of causation or mere correlation, Google is now abandoning Gears.
As one Google rep told the L.A. Times, “We are excited that much of the technology in Gears, including offline support and geolocation APIs, are being incorporated into the HTML5 spec as an open standard supported across browsers, and see that as the logical next step for developers looking to include these features in their websites.”
Believe us Google, no one is looking forward to the cross-browser, cross-OS implementation of HTML5 as much as we are.
UPDATE: According to blogger Mark Milian‘s unnamed sources at Google, Gears will continue to be supported for sites that already use it. However, the rep continued, “We expect developers to use HTML5 for these features moving forward as it’s a standards-based approach that will be available across all browsers.”
Still, this statement marks Gears’ graceful and gradual retreat to obsolescence as HTML5 is coached for its center stage place.